Vegnesday Part II: Pesto & Cheese Panini

I told you yesterday I had plans for my focaccia bread, it it was to satisfy a deep and long-unfulfilled need for grilled cheese.  A “panini” is a grilled sandwich made from bread other than regular sliced bread – basically I just wanted this to sound fancier than your average grilled cheese (but it’s not).  I further fancied this up by using homemade pesto (recipe in Part I).

I can’t remember the last time I had a grilled cheese, which is kind of tragic.  Such a comfort food!  It reminds me of childhood, despite the fact that now that I think about it, I can’t remember my (German) mother ever actually making grilled cheese at home.  Maybe it’s that grilled cheese is a cultural signifier of the collective American childhood…it’s a food drenched in nostalgia, even (or especially) for a kid like me who spent most of her childhood outside her “home country.”

You could cut a lot of corners with this panini recipe by using store-bought bread and pesto.  With everything ready, it takes all of 10 minutes to make a sandwich and grill it with something heavy pressing it down onto the pan while it cooks.

Panini 4
Fun fact:  Everyone knows that grilled cheese is delicious, but not that it’s really, really hard to take a sexy picture of.

Ingredients (makes two paninis)

  • Two sandwich-sized pieces of focaccia bread (or baguette, ciabatta, etc.)
  • 4 tablespoons pesto (recipe here, or use store-bought)
  • Cheese, to taste (I used extra-sharp cheddar and rosemary & olive oil Asiago, but you can use whatever you have and sounds tasty, either one cheese or a combination)
  • Olive oil spray or butter, just enough to lightly coat frying pan


  • Cut the bread into halves horizontally and spread each inner side of the sandwiches with pesto.

Panini 1

  • Slice enough cheese to fill each sandwich with a little or a lot – whatever floats your boat – then assemble the sandwiches.

Panini 2

  • Lightly coat a large frying pan with oil or butter over medium heat.  Place the sandwiches in the pan and either cover them with a heavy object (I used a meat press for the grill, but you could also use a heavy pan) or press down firmly with a spatula every now and then while they’re cooking.  Flip the sandwiches when they’re brown on the bottom, and repeat the pressing on the other side.
Panini 3
Luckily my husband’s a griller, so we had one of these cast-iron presses on hand.
  • When nicely browned and the cheese looks melty, plate the sandwiches, cut them diagonally into triangles, and serve immediately.

Panini 5

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